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Uptown Double Date: Malecon + United Palace of Cultural Arts

Malecon and United Palace Theater

Two icons come together in this weekend's uptown mash-up.

Malecon, the famed Dominican roast chicken restaurant in Washington Heights, has long been one of my favorites–even when I lived way downtown. One taste of their crispy-on-the-outside-juicy-on-the-inside bird and you'll be hooked for good. Sprinkle the garlic-and-lime mojo sauce over the meat for a citrusy kick and get the sweet plantains as a side. I have tried many throughout the city, and these are simply the best.

Malecon Restaurant in Washington Heights

Photo: Malecon

My second favorite order is the mofongo, fried green plantains mashed with garlic and pork, shrimp, cheese or other options, then served with an addictive gravy. But the menu is endless and the dishes are heaping, so there really is something for everyone–kind of like a really good Dominican diner. The restaurant is always busy but welcoming, filled with families, couples and large groups of friends. If you're not Latino, it's a good place to practice your Spanish (but not necessary).

United Palace Theater

Photo: United Palace

There's a second Malecon location you can visit on the Upper West Side, but then you wouldn't be able to make it a date and head to the marvelous United Palace after your meal. Built in 1930 and the last of the five Loew's Wonder Theaters, this elaborate venue hosted vaudeville shows and talking pictures (aka movies) in its heyday.

Forty years later it became a church and was restored by its new owner, televangelist Reverend Ike. His son took over after his death, and today the 3,400-seat theater is a house of worship and home to the five-year-old nonprofit United Palace of Cultural Arts.

There are some great reasons to visit until the end of the year, including Dominican bachata concerts this weekend and the next, free "Lobby Series" dance performances on Monday nights in November, and a fun screening of "Chitty, Chitty Bang Bang" (it's part of the theater's annual fundraiser).

The Hip Hop Nutcracker at the United Palace Theater

Photo: United Palace

Book now if you want to catch The Hip Hop Nutcracker with Kurtis Blow, a modern reimagining of Tchaikovsky's Christmas classic, and the holiday screening of "It's a Wonderful Life" in December. Hallelujah!–United Palace of Cultural Arts has become a real destination.

Top photo: Malecon and Google Maps

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